03/01/17 10:04am
NATA

Pastel de nata, Portugal’s signature dessert.

Portugal—just the very sound of the country sounds warm, and true it is, but this is also a country full of flavors. So, while you’re out soaking up the sun, you should also take some time to do some gastronomic research during your stay and indulge in the delicious food and Portugal has to offer. Here are some of  the country’s best best food and drink.

1. Pastel de nata
These custard tarts are both a treat and a cornerstone of Portuguese culinary culture, and you simply can’t leave the country without trying one – there are plenty of places, too, so there’s no excuse to, either. The dessert varies slightly depending whereabouts you are in Portugal, but one of the best places to sample these sweet sensations is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, in Lisbon, where they are known as Pastéis de Belem. The shop is a hit with locals and tourists alike and is one of the oldest in Portugual for producing this dessert, so they sure know what they’re doing! (more…)

05/18/16 1:35pm
LOLLOBSTER

Photo: B.A. Van Sise

With very few exceptions—notably the Tortas Puma—I adhere to  the old adage, “Never eat anything bigger than your head.” Now thanks to my good friend photojournalist B.A. Van Sise, I might just have to make another exception: the LOL Hot Lobster Roll served at Abbot’s Lobster in the Rough in Noank, Conn.

For a decade Van Sise made do with the quarter pound lobster roll. “Now that my hunger hole has been broken I can’t imagine how people could possibly survive on so little,” Van Sise said. (more…)

05/22/13 10:02am
Surely the only lobster roll to use shichimi pepper and Japanese mayo.

Surely the only lobster roll to use shichimi pepper and Japanese mayo.

Tex-Japanese, a noxious hybrid created by Guy Fieri, is the last spin I’d expect to see on that summertime Maine classic, the lobster roll.  Thankfully in the capable hands of Gary Anza, the chef at Astoria’s Bistro 33 it works. That’s mainly because Anza is a skilled chef and Guy Fieri is a dude prone to perching sunglasses on the back of his frosted-tipped dome. When I ordered the lobster roll ($16) I knew it wasn’t going to hew to Down East tradition. After all, the menu made it clear the sandwich included Japanese mayo and shichimi, a red pepper powder more common at Japanese izakaya than at French bistros. It didn’t say anything about the Texas toast though. Topped with a tangle of shredded cucumbers and dressed with Japanese mayo and served with some fancy lettuce it’s the type of lobster roll that could only come from a chef in Queens. Actually it’s more of a sandwich than a lobster roll. One that’s as refreshing and eclectic as the borough from which it hails.

Bistro 33,19-33 Ditmars Blvd., Astoria, 718-721-1933

05/01/13 10:02am
Noah cracks up the Thai chicken skin.

Noah cracks up the Thai chicken skin.

I have the distinct honor of having performed a cross-borough Thai chicken crackling mitzvah. It all started when I heard that my buddy Noah Arenstein was having problems sourcing gribbenes for Scharf & Zoyer, his new sandwich stand at Smorgasburg. So last Friday night I breezed by the throng waiting for tables outside Thai juggernaut Sripraphai and purchased four boxes of nan kai, super-crunchy fried chicken skin seasoned with salt and garlic.

An experimental kugel double down with cabbage-carrot slaw.

An experimental kugel double down with cabbage-carrot slaw.

Noah had me play guinea pig with his newest creation, a kugel double down with carrot and cabbage slaw topped with gribbenes. The kugel sandwich is his invention and a brilliant one at that. This version of it needs some tweaking, though the Thai gribbenes played their crunchy, salty role perfectly. “I think you’ll find the original more balanced,” Noah said. (more…)

03/04/13 10:13am
Lobster, squid, and crab—the sour cream and onion and BBQ of Thailand.

Lobster, squid, and crab—the sour cream and onion and BBQ of Thailand.

A while back I participated in Lay’s Do Us A Flavor, a social media campaign to create bold new flavors for the most American of snacks, the potato chip. My flavors were “Banging Bánh Mì,” and “Ghostface Killah,” the former modeled after a classic Vietnamese sandwich and the latter filled with fiery goodness of the bhut jolokia, or  ghost pepper. Sadly these two creations did not make the cut. They were edged out by Cheesy Garlic Bread, Chicken & Waffles, and Sriracha.

I haven’t been able to find the Do Us A Flavor finalists out my way yet, but I found something even cooler at Thai Thai Grocery: a trio of spicy seafood-flavored chips from Lay’s Thailand. I handed over $7.50 and was soon in possession of the Hot Chili Squid, Lobster Hot Plate, and Hot and Spicy Crab flavors.

(more…)

02/26/13 11:04am
The Chinese name for these crawfish translates to ‘spicy little lobsters.’

The Chinese name for these crawfish translates to ‘spicy little lobsters.’

Even though I pride myself on being an adventurous eater, it took a good 30-plus years before I tried crawfish. It’s not that I have a problem with seafood. After all I grew up with an Italian-American seafood bonanza—shrimp scampi, seafood salad, lobster, fried calamari, and baked clams—every Christmas Eve. The opportunity just never presented itself. Then one day crawfish, a delicacy most often associated with New Orleans, appeared in a most unexpected place, a Henanese noodle stand in Flushing’s New World Mall food court.

I handed over my $9.99 and was soon presented with a bowl of má là xiǎo long xiā. Bathed in chili oil, and shot through with palate-tingling Sichuan peppercorns and bits of ginger they were simply amazing. Little lobster is an apt name for these succulent crustaceans. Simply pop the tail off and pull out a nugget of sweet meat. They are truly the spiciest, tastiest Henanese crawdads in all of Flushing. And, I want a bowl of ‘em right now.

Li’s Lanzhou Hand Stretched Noodles, No. 12, New World Mall Food Court, 40-21 Main St., Flushing